This webinar was hosted by Impaq (part of the Optimi Group) and the Mail & Guardian. It featured Louise Schoonwinkel, Managing Director for Optimi Home and Naadira Moosa, a homeschooling parent. It was facilitated by Marcelle Gordon, anchor for TV news channel eNCA.
Naadira Moosa has been homeschooling her children since 2017, after she heard allegations of bullying and substance abuse at her children’s schools. Louise Schoonwinkel said that the decision to homeschool is a decision that must be taken by the whole family; it works for some children but not for others. Some parents homeschool because they live in remote areas or travel a lot, or because their children benefit more from it. The Covid-19 crisis has caused a big uptake in homeschooling for health reasons.
Impaq is a curriculum-based approach, which follows the CAPS curriculum of South African schools. Other approaches are more eclectic and more fluid, more concerned with life skills. Nowadays there is e-learning and online teaching, and the blended approach, which Impaq employs, combines these, including live lessons. Children in different grades benefit from different approaches, for example young children who are still learning how to write need to interact physically with materials, while older children benefit more from online lessons.
Moosa went with the Impaq curriculum-based approach for her children, as it is easy for parents to understand and to plan lessons. “If my kids need to go back to school it will be a small transition, and their matric certificate will enable access to tertiary education institutes.”
She said regarding the decision to homeschool, there is a lot of material out there on the internet, which helped her work out how to go about it. There was also a transition period before the actual learning started, where she worked out what her children needed and what they worked best with.
Homeschooling is legal; the Schools Act does provide for it, said Schoonwinkel. School is compulsory until children until the age of 15. From the age of 10 to 15, homeschooling must be done through an official body such as CAPS or IEB, so your child must be registered with one of them. Regarding the Coronavirus, most children were already registered for school for the year before it arrived. Grade R is not compulsory, Schoonwinkel said in response to a question, so homeschooling is indeed possible for children under seven years old if they follow a robust curriculum. There are links on the Impaq website that parents can click on to register with the department of basic education (DBE), or click on [email protected]
How hard is it for parents to play the role of parent and teacher? Moosa said that parents must appear confident, even when they don’t feel so. It isn’t easy to know when to apply discipline and when to allow space, especially at first, but she found it became easier over time. Family values are important to instil, and a routine is helpful that separates work from leisure time.
Some parents may feel they are not qualified to teach their own children, but Schoonwinkel said that there is a “massive support network” out there of homeschooling parents, in addition to a group of 1 400 teachers and the Impaq staff who can be drawn upon. Moosa said most parents do experience doubt about whether they are doing an adequate job, but they must persevere. She began working with some other parents, helping children at school with homework, which encouraged other parents to consider doing homeschooling themselves, as teachers are not often able to provide the individual attention that children require.
Tutor support is sometimes necessary to help parents and learners, especially during lockdown, to help home-schoolers explore the other avenues that exist on the internet. The lockdown had minimal impact on Impaq, except for a few exams that had to be held in a controlled environment that could not be conducted; in the end the exams were scrapped by the DBE. Homeschooling offers uninterrupted learning, regardless of whether schools are open or not.
It also goes in accordance with the pace of the child — some are able to go faster, and some take a bit longer, and many can proceed faster in certain subjects but may not be ready for the stress of the exams of higher grades. Moosa said that exams are less stressful for her kids, as there is no competition with other kids, but she added that matric is very stressful, so bringing in tutors is advisable.
She said that a few hours a day is enough time to spend on schoolwork, and it doesn’t have to follow weekday routines; after a few hours a day, children are “finished” and cannot concentrate any more. Schoonwinkel concurred, saying that older children have longer concentration generally, and that it helps to have flexible hours, for instance, if it suits the child, they can learn in the evening. Also, allow your child some time off where they can spend time with their friends, which allows the parents get a break.
Questions were asked about the importance of social development; there are many myths that homeschooling does not provide enough social interaction. Moosa said her children are involved in community sports, and have more time to do extracurricular activities. Schoonwinkel said if parents require advice on this topic or any other, the Impaq staff is available to answer questions and provide advice.
She said they host a matric farewell every year, and surprisingly, the children do have friends and a date at the event, probably because of social media. Homeschooling families do events together and share many activities. The audience asked several questions about finding other families on Impaq, and Schoonwinkel said that there are social media groups set up or in the process of being set up.
A poll conducted during the webinar revealed that most parents listening already have their children in homeschooling, or wish to do so. Only 3% wanted their kids to be in brick-and-mortar schools!
There are many negative sentiments about homeschooling from the more conservative elements, said Moosa, but her family chose not to listen to them. She did a lot of research, and electing to use Impaq was very beneficial, as it makes schooling from home understandable, and the support is there. Many parents are nervous about taking the first step, so it may be advisable to start their children in a tutor centre, where there are a few other children.
What kind of costs are parents looking at, for Impaq tutoring, and learning supplies? The most basic package is R600 for grade R, and its about R2 500 for grade ones. With all basic supplies, including books, it’s around R5 000. It’s a sliding scale: for matrics it’s R16 000, plus the cost of exams, which comes to about R23 000. All the prices are on the Impaq website under https://www.impaq.co.za/covid19-online-schooling/
Moosa said the benefits of homeschooling outweigh the drawbacks: “Set the pace for your children according to their abilities, and enjoy the experience.” Schoonwinkel advised parents to talk to many other people when setting out on this path, and if it doesn’t work, you can always send your kids back to school. It’s best to use the CAPS curriculum so the transition is seamless.
One parent’s comment at the close of the webinar was: “Brilliant webinar! I feel less anxious about next year with my son.”
For more information, visit https://www.impaq.co.za/